Toronto Trip, 2015

I don't have business trips often, but when I do, the whole family gets to come along. Robert and the kids accompanied me to Toronto for a Friday-Friday week of back-to-back conferences. We stayed at the Residence Inn in the Entertainment District, just a few blocks from the Fairmont and the Convention Center, and I went to the conferences most days. I took two days off, though, and we also had a few nice afternoons together after the talks I needed to hear/give for the day were finished. We saw a lot of good friends Debbie and Chris, and we had a great week despite the stomach virus that hit Marcus, then Samantha, then Robert during the week. Minor fire in hotel, and evacuation from the fifteenth floor? Check. Lost wallet, then returned? Check. Aforementioned virus? Check. Still, we had fun and ate some good food along the way.

Over the course of the week we had churros at a place in Kensington Market, peameal bacon sandwiches from St. Lawrence Market, Portugese chicken and Portugese egg tarts from another St. Lawrence Market place, a peanut butter chocolate mousse pie (pictured at left) from Wanda's Pie in the Sky, butter tarts, and Glory Hole donuts (peanut butter and jelly, Irish Creme, buttered toast, and s'more). We didn't make it to a McDonald's, though we had wanted to try their poutine too, just for fun, and also their butter tart pies, nor did we make it to a Boston Pizza despite the name and convenient location.

We were very comfortable in the hotel, with a one-bedroom suite and full kitchen, and thankfully our horse and carriage weren't damaged, so we didn't need to try to collect our $40 from the management.

On Saturday afternoon we drove a Zipcar out to Bronte Creek Provincial Park for a maple festival. We watched historical demostrations of syrup-boiling among the First Nations, the pioneers, and the Victorians. When Marcus incorrectly answered a question by saying "the Pilgrims," we watched our Canadian guide react with hysterical laughter. We consumed freshly-made maple sugar candy, maple taffy, and, of course, maple syrup at the pancake house, eating outside for the most part in the wind. Samantha played on haybales, Marcus and Robert sawed a small piece off a log and had it burned with the logo of the park, and both kids (mostly) completed a scavenger hunt to become (Canadian) park rangers. It was a great early Spring day.

We ended Saturday afternoon by going to Debbie and Chris's house, where the kids zoned out in front of Netflix and we ate donuts and talked and laughed, before all going out for German food together. Sunday morning we were back, picking up Debbie and Chris in a minivan Zipcar and stopping at Tim Horton's for breakfast. Salted caramel Timbits rule. We drove to the Canadian War Heritage Museum, which had half of their floor closed off for a model convention, but at half-price admission we didn't mind. The aging aviation-buff volunteers loved answering Marcus's and Chris's questions, and we voted on our favorite models before heading to all-you-can-eat sushi at Spring Sushi in Hamilton, a few minutes away, where you can order on iPads at your table. Samantha's eyes lit up at the crab, Marcus downed the salmon, and everyone else found things to enjoy as well.

From Hamilton we drove straight to Niagara Falls, parking the car and walkind around a bit before doing the Journey Behind the Falls. The lower observation deck was completely snowed in, and two of the upper portholes were iced over as well. Again, admission was about half the usual price, and there sure weren't any crowds. Marcus loved the echoing tunnels as well as the thundering falls, and Samantha slept through everything--par for the course.

Still stuffed from lunch, we didn't really have supper, but we did ask Debbie and Chris to take us to their local supermarket, a beautiful Loblaw's (the Arrested Development fan in Robert chuckles at the name every time), where we bought Kindereggs, maple caramels, maple chocolate bars, penguin cheese crackers, maple bacon potato chips, poutine potato chips, maple sandwich cookies, Aero bars, and calamari and tzaziki potato chips, both to nibble on this week and to bring home as fun presents for friends.

On Monday, lunch at Indian Roti on Queen's Quay West was both preceded and followed by some playground time at Roundhouse Park, where we also admired the trains and inspected the tracks. The small-scale railroad won't be operating until closer to the summer, but we still thought it looked neat.

That afternoon, our brightest of the week, we went to the top of the CN Tower. Both kids loved the observation decks and the glass floor particularly.


Walking around downtown Toronto later on, Robert got Samantha some ice cream; Robert and Samantha stopped in at Zipcar headquarters and got free loot; Marcus and I got a mango smoothie with boba and some lamb sticks in Chinatown from some friendly vendors; we all had dinner at a grumpy Chinatown place with hand-drawn noodles and lamb dumplings; and we all just observed the city. Random notes: There are a lot of Scottish people here. We love the PATH, the underground walkways. Toronto folks on the streets are very friendly, engaging the kids and adjusting their hats. The Shangri La hotel has an amazing sculpture.

Robert took Samantha to the Ripley's Aquarium one afternoon while I stayed in the hotel with Marcus. He noted that Canadians don't bother rolling up their sleeves before plunging an arm into the touch tank.

While Robert stayed in the hotel with a too-sick Marcus, Samantha and I joined Debbie and Chris for poutine from the hotel lobby bar and then a walk to Bacon Nation. Other than the fact that it closes ridiculously early (we are hardly nightowls, the four of us, but we closed them down), we adored everything, from the sandwiches and the all-bacon burgers (Pig Mac) to my fantastic breakfast poutine--home fries, cheese, hollandaise, an egg, and, of course, bacon. Debbie had a deep-fried bacon-wrapped Mars Bar for dessert, too.

Friday we met up with Chris and Debbie for lunch at the Corned Beef House for corned beef, reubens, and Montreal-style smoked meat sandwiches (and poutine, of course). They have free coffee and free lollipops--Robert and the kids were thrilled, respectively. After lunch, Chris went back to work and Debbie came with us to the Tiff, where we spent a too-short two hours in the DigiPlaySpace building robots, making movies on a green screen, and playing video games you controlled by hugging a pillow, among other adventures.

After a Canadian maki (peameal bacon, lettuce, tomato, cream cheese (WHY?), maple syrup, and ground pepper) at Maki My Way, we had a smooth flight back home, with one last Tim Horton's maple-glazed donut in the airport.


The Rest of the Family Weighs In

Highlights of the week according to Robert: For the few days he was ambulatory, Robert blazed a path through Toronto using ApplePay, waving his phone in front of machines and amazing merchants and bystanders alike with his 21st century American technology. Though he tried valiently to like Tim Horton's, and concedes that some locations are better than others, he remains an unrepentant Starbucks snob.

Highlights of the week according to Samantha: "Canada is the bestest country I've ever been to. I like the glass floor on the tower and I liked seeing my friend Debbie. Can we be Canadian every day?"

Highlights of the week according to Marcus:



"Now it is a strange thing, but things that are good to have and days that are good to spend are soon told about, and not much to listen to; while things that are uncomfortable, palpitating, and even gruesome, may make a good tale, and take a deal of telling anyway." --J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

Sick kiddos in the hotel meant lots of snuggles. . . and we made it through. Everyone is well now, at least, safe and sound at home!


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Created: 3/29/15. Last Modified: 3/29/15.